My parents established a pattern for our Christmas celebrations that went unchanged until the children all grew up and left the house. Other neighbors might put up their Christmas trees weeks before the Feast, but in our house the tree was bought a few days before Christmas and kept in the garage until Christmas Eve when we would decorate it together.
The older children were allowed to go to Midnight Mass, but the younger ones (I have three sisters and two brothers) were sent to bed and – preposterously – told to go to sleep so that Santa could come visit. Early in the morning, one of us would wake up and find our Christmas stockings at the ends of our beds. At that point, everyone was up and about. I used to love my Christmas stocking with its bits and bobs… and always with money at the very bottom. How did Santa know that I liked cash so much?
We would then get up and my parents would take us younger ones (I am 5th of the 6) to Mass. We’d race home but had to wait while my mother prepared us breakfast. We’d want to rush into the sitting room to get at our gifts, but my parents seemed to enjoy making us stew. Breakfast would apparently be coming to an end… and then my mother would say, “Bob, would you like some more toast?” “No, Dad, no!,” we’d scream as he would reply, “More toast? That would be lovely…”
By the time we got at our gifts we were like ravening Mongol hordes descending upon a defenseless village!